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Silver Lake will dedicate its tribute garden on Veterans Day

Dozens of Silver Lake residents are honoring veterans past and present by purchasing an engraved paver for the village’s Veterans Tribute Garden that is now taking shape.

Orders are still being taken for the special pavers – but requests need to be in soon because the village will place its final order shortly.

The Veterans Tribute Garden is being constructed adjacent to the village’s civic building on Kent Road. Its first official ceremonies will take place this Veterans Day – though the project will not be quite finished because of problems obtaining essential construction supplies.

The brainchild of village Mayor Bernie Hovey – though entirely funded by private donations – the garden is designed to be a tribute rather than a memorial.

“I had been thinking about having some kind of memorial in Silver Lake for a number of years, so I decided to do something about it,” Hovey said. “We convened a committee to discuss it. There are veterans throughout the country, but there is nothing we could find that honors living veterans and their families, which is why we switched from a memorial garden to a tribute garden, where we remember all veterans, living or not, and also their families as we feel the families often make as many sacrifices as the veterans themselves.”

The project emerged from a ceremony Hovey backed last year called the Witness Tree.

“The tree is right outside my office window,” said Hovey. “Every day from Nov. 1 to Nov. 11, we hung 22 sets of dog tags on the tree. That represents the number of veterans who kill themselves each day in America.

“We finished with a closing ceremony on Veterans Day, and that is what spurred us on to the tribute garden. We will be doing the Witness Tree again this year, and anyone is welcome to join us at 11 a.m. each day for a short 10-minute ceremony, finishing with a longer one on Veterans Day. Last year, there were anywhere from six to 18 people each day.”

Hovey said the project has been “warmly received” by villagers as well as people from outside the community.

“The only misconception I have had is people saying they would love to buy a paver, but they don’t live in Silver Lake,” he said. “The garden is for all veterans in any part of the world they live, it is just in Silver Lake – when people realize that, they get more involved.”

To date, about 170 engraved pavers have been purchased at $100 each.

“The whole project will use about 1,800 pavers, and there is still a brief opportunity for people to have one inscribed for a little longer,” Hovey said, “but once we place the order, we will not be able to add any more.”

The entire project was expected to cost about $80,000, but it has come in closer to $90,000.

“We are very close, as the community has done a great job in raising the money,” Hovey said. “Eight individuals and companies stepped up to be sponsors ranging between $3,500 and $10,000 donations, and well over 60 others have contributed to what they think is a worthwhile project.”

Work started in September, and the foundations and core concrete ring have been built.

“There is a carved-out circle that will be filled out with the pavers,” Hovey said. “We had hoped to be completed for Veterans Day, but like everyone else, we are experiencing supply-chain issues. The bricks probably won’t arrive until just prior to Veterans Day, and the big centerpiece – a specially commissioned steel ring – probably not until the end of November. There is the potential to install a water feature in the future.

“We will dedicate it next year sometime, possibly on Memorial Day, but most of it will be finished this year, and people can use it to come and pay tribute to veterans and their families.”

He said a flagpole will also be installed in memory of Silver Lake veteran Nick Goshen, and the first use of the garden will be a commemoration for him this Veterans Day.

Anyone wishing to support the Veterans Tribute Garden in Silver Lake by having a paver inscribed can contact the Village of Silver Lake City Hall at 330-923-5233 or email Mayor Bernie Hovey at [email protected].